Bonsai (literally "tree in a pot") is a living thing so it may be the hobby you never quite finish!
Pronounced bon-sigh, the ancient practice of training trees to grow in small pots is today most associated with Japan.
However, a quick glance at the history of bonsai reveals that it was actually the Chinese who originated the technique -- which they called penjing -- to first introduce the world to the miniature landscapes that we know as bonsai.
Today, centuries-old techniques are still used to dwarf tender, growing trees to make them appear aged or wind-swept by pruning and shaping branches and roots.
Careful rooting and potting techniques control growth, and metal wires are traditionally employed to give a growing bonsai tree its characteristic gnarled or twisted appearance.
In addition to training dwarf trees to grow upright, two other major styles of bonsai include cascade and forest style.
Dwarf trees are planted in groups to create forest style bonsai.
A juniper tree trained to
grow downward as a
cascade style bonsai.
Careful attention is also given to shaping roots, which are overlayed with moss to imitate grass.
Bonsai fun facts
• The word “bonsai” is made up of the two Japanese characters: “bon” meaning tray and “sai” meaning plant, which when literally translated means: tray plant.
• Wire of copper or aluminum is traditionally used in place of steel wire to shape bonsai as they are more malleable and not as apt to rust over time.
• In 1976 the people of Japan presented more than 50 bonsai trees as a gift to the US in honor of its 200th birthday. The trees are now housed at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, located at the U.S. National Arboretum, in Washington, D.C. Today, it comprises one of the largest collections of bonsai in the world.
More about how to grow bonsai around the Web:
Around the Web, learn how to grow your own miniature bonsai via online tours, tips and tricks, photo galleries and feature articles in our online guide for the bonsai-obsessed...
Bonsai on the Web - Expansive, searchable databases of related sites, nurseries and suppliers, feature articles, plus a chatroom, mail list and calendar of events.
Bonsaisite.com - Check out a great intro to the age-old art form with facts on their history and care, along with a brief overview of basic upright, slanting and cascade styles, bonsai maintenance, advanced techniques, suggested books, related tools, supplies and more.
Bonsai4Me - This popular UK site is an excellent insider's guide to growing, feeding, and caring for your pet bonsai with basic and advanced techniques, species guide, feature articles, a gallery of images and an opportunity to watch 'em grow via progression photos.
American Bonsai Society - Browse for informational articles by members, photo galleries of show competitions and event highlights, information on how to enroll in their mentor-monitored correspondence course, group forum, event calendar, related links & references.
The National Bonsai Foundation - This is the Washington, D.C.-based group supporting the National Bonsai and Penjing Museums with featured events and activities, background and history of the collections, an online store, related links, and don't miss the grand virtual tour.